John Turvey: Downtown Eastside Crusader Dies

By Staff Writers

“He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.”
-Georgia Straight Editor Charlie Smith on John Turvey

John Turvey, who died unexpectedly and too soon on October 11, 2006, was honored and remembered at the Ray Cam Co-operative Community Centre (902 East Hastings, Vancouver, BC) on Thursday November 9.

The centre was literally packed with people who had known and respected Turvey over the years. A long line of speakers starting with Charlie Smith, editor of the Georgia Straight, told personal stories and paid tribute to the life and work of this remarkable man.

A video entitled “Turvey Boatrocker” put together by a longtime friend, highlighted Turvey’s articulate interactions with the media at various stages of his long involvement in the issues of the Downtown Eastside.

Those who spoke covered the entire spectrum of friends and colleagues connected to Turvey through love and admiration: judges, police officers, fellow social workers, and colleagues from frontline organizations all remembered his stubbornness when confronted with obstacles to progress in his struggle to reduce the harm happening to people living on the edge.

Margaret Prevost of the Carnegie Centre, Mike Woodsky of DEYAS (Downtown Eastside Youth Activties Society), Lou Desmerais from Vancouver Native Health, and Steve Bouchard and Lorelei Hawkins of the Ray Cam Centre all reflected upon Turvey’s dedication to youth at risk.

Jenny Kwan and Libby Davies were also in attendance. And a number of lesser known individuals who had been touched in some way by Turvey’s energy and commitment. The many personal and professional tributes can perhaps be summed up in Turvey’s own words.

As he said in an interview on CBC radio in 2004, “All I’d like to be remembered as is a person who came from there and struggled with his realities and tried to achieve good things for himself and good things for the community. That’s all.”

Turvey did achieve good things for the community; his legacy includes the organizations he helped to found and led over the years and the very fact that harm reduction is a part of our vocabulary at all. A John Turvey Community Fund has been established and will be administered by the Ray Cam Centre. Funds donated will be used to support programs assisting youth at risk on the Downtown Eastside.